Wait until you see this guy…

In mid-major basketball on the East Coast, Jimmy Patsos is sort of a legend.

Part of that is because he’s proven himself to be a pretty good coach, having taken a Loyola (Md.) team that was 1-27 the season before he arrived and led them to a winning season in his second year and back-to-back 18-win seasons in his third and fourth seasons. But most of it is because he’s… well… let’s just say different.

But I’ve developed the impression over the last few days that no one around here knows who this guy is. Well, let me just tell you you’re in for some entertainment.

I had my first encounter with Patsos in the spring of 2008 when James Madison was looking for a new head coach. He was the only sitting head coach who told me on the record he was interested in the job. I certainly appreciated the honesty, which was hard to come by at the time, and to my knowledge, he didn’t have to endure any backlash at Loyola for saying he was interested in another job. But I still couldn’t tell you why he did it.

The second time I ran into him was later that year in the consolation portion of the NIT season tip-off when Loyola played James Madison. I was prepared for things to get interesting, because in a previous game, Patsos got a technical from an official for suggesting he might be biased because the ref and Cornell’s coach both grew up in Philadelphia. After the tech, Patsos banished himself to the end of the bench, and at one point went into the stands to talk to his athletic director to keep himself out of trouble.

Loyola beat James Madison that night, and I remember Patsos’s opening statement somehow involved a book he found on the history of Madison Square Garden and the NIT and therefore how much of an honor it was for his school to be involved in such an event. I found this odd, considering he was nowhere near MSG at the time. Regardless after some more considerable tangents, I remember him saying something about not having any chance against Davidson (which still had Stephen Curry at the time) then looking at the players sitting next to him and winking.

The next night, Loyola came out with a triangle and two defense, and those two were on Curry. In 32 minutes, the nation’s leading scorer took only three shots and didn’t score a point. Of course, Davidson still won 78-48 and Patsos took a lot of heat for creating a publicity stunt instead of trying to win a game, and also for some of his postgame quotes that  you can find in this Washington Post blog. Among those who criticized him were Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, and he responded with this endearingly sincere but mind-boggling letter that ended up on Deadspin.

Regardless of all that, I have to say that the man can coach, and he remains one of the most remarkably honest and interesting people I’ve ever interviewed. But I just point all of this out to inform you you should keep an eye on him Tuesday. He’s worth the price of admission.

3 comments

  1. Thank you Dustin,
    I don’t pretend to know this guy. The story about sitting in the stands reminds of the late Ricky Byrdsong at Northwestern. He went and sat with the student section.

  2. I also knew nothing about this gent. With Coach Crean’s back and forth pacing and Coach Patsos’s unusual antics it could give a workout to a spectators visual skills. Might be as much fun as RMK and Gene Keady coaching contests during an IU/PU game.

  3. I went to Loyola, and actually interviewed Coach Patsos right after he got the job. He’s obviously a different guy, but one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in sports, and did a great job not only turning the program around, but getting the students involved at a school with basically no interest whatsoever.

    I haven’t done the best job keeping up with the team since I graduated, but I’ve heard that he’s mellowed considerably (including wearing a peace bracelet, which is awesome). That’s a totally different picture than the guy I remember sweating through his suit jacket – a trick he clearly learned from Gary Williams at Maryland – and chewing out refs for 40 straight minutes. So I won’t guarantee any fireworks, but you can bet his postgame press conference will at least include some unique quotes.

    Can’t wait to see what happens, my first game at the Hall this year. Not even a little conflicted about rooting against my alma mater.

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